Sermon, 3.1.09"The Sword and the Trowel" Rev. Erik Bonkovsky Nehemiah 4:15-23
Famous preacher Charles Spurgeon had a magazine called The Sword and the Trowel, and that phrase sums up the passage we're studying today.
We need to engage in real work. It's good, and God has called us to it. It's hard and painstaking sometimes. Often we think of our day job as something we're doing just to pay the bills. We squeak by with the least possible effort. But we need to look at our occupations, whatever they may be, as what God has called us to for now. Everything we do can be potentially life-giving, which is why we're instructed to "work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men." Do you see your job that way?
For example, the Robinson Theater was recently re-opened in Church Hill. A group of people worked hard to raise the money to have it fixed up, and now that it's re-opened it's giving life back to the community. So by doing the work, we get closer to where this story started in the first place: God in a garden, doing work, and making things that are beautiful and useful.
In our lives, we face attacks from the outside and from within that devalue our work. We are told that work is all about money, security, bills, or comfort. Freeing ourselves of this outlook is constant work, and takes vigilance. Under these attacks, we need to pick up the sword of the word of God to reinvigorate our purpose. Our work is derivative; we engage in this work because God did. God is always fighting for us; he defends us (Ephesians 6:10-20).
Examples of where we can apply this work ethic
Relationships are hard work. On an everyday basis, they can be repetitive and messy. The trowel means pursuing people, getting to know them, and truly hearing them. Relationships don't just happen, it takes investment, love, and listening.
Housework is another area to focus our hard work on. When we're creating an atmosphere where life can happen, where meals can be shared, and where friends can be invited in, we're doing God's work. As illustrated in the song "Holy As a Day is Spent," there is a Godward dimension to everything in life.
So when the voices of doubt creep in, telling us that the daily grind doesn't matter, we have to beat those voices back. God doesn't just care if you preach or lead a small group or lead worship -- he cares that you're being faithful. And that extends into everything he has called you to do.